Exploring the Digital Competencies of Students

How do Students Use Technology...


As technology-based devices become increasingly pervasive in everyday life and we use them in new and different ways, current trends in higher education research have focused increasingly on the use of computer technologies in teaching, in particular investigating how new devices might be integrated into the classroom. Indeed, the proliferation of technology into general society, and in particular, the use of the Internet as part of everyday life in much of the western world, means that if higher education institutions were not to integrate technology into their delivery, then they might be considered to be inefficient, ineffectual and out-dated.

For this reason, the use of internet based applications for content delivery, communications, assessment etc. has moved from leading edge to the norm in most Australian universities. However, whilst much of the research in this area focuses on the latest trends, such as the use of tablets, smart phones and wearable technology, effective teaching practice must focus also on understanding the affordances that students bring to the learning situation.

The aim of this research project was to assess students prior to and after completion of a computing unit, as part of an access education course, to map their digital competency, allowing us to assess these affordances, and attempt to measure the impact of these existing digital competencies on their learning. The key questions being asked were “What are the base digital competencies of commencing access-education students?” and “How do these pre-existing digital competencies impact the acquisition of further computing skills?”. This work focused specifically on students enrolled in the STEPS course, offered by CQUniversity in Australia, which is designed to teach students skills such as writing, math, basic computing and introductory science, as well as the study skills necessary to successfully navigate university.

Work continues on the digital competencies of students, with two papers published relating to this project and  more to come. If you would like to discuss this project with lab members, please contact Dr Michael Cowling or Michelle Gray via the contacts page on this site.